2012 Summer League Top Prospect Lists
The following are the top prospect in each college summer league that we surveyed. Links for the full lists for subscribers are being added above as those leagues are posted.
Braden Shipley, rhp, Anchorage (Jr., Nevada):
A former second-team all-Western Athletic Conference shortstop who pitched just 10 innings as a freshman, Shipley emerged as the Wolf Pack's Friday starter and won WAC pitcher of the year this spring, ranking first in ERA (2.20), second in innings (98), and third in strikeouts (80). Deployed as a closer to limit his innings, Shipley dominated in 13 summer innings, striking out 22 and walking two. Shipley has a lean, angular and athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame that offers some projection. He throws from a high three-quarters slot and gets good downhill plane. Scouts love his mid-90s fastball that touches 97 mph.
"He has a quick arm and the ball really explodes out of his hand," one scout said. "For a guy that hits 97 there isn't a lot of effort." In relief, Shipley primarily relied on his 78-79 mph curveball that scouts grade as an average present pitch, but many feel his changeup is a superior offering. A cousin of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley, Braden fields his position with the athleticism of a former shortstop and holds runners close with quick feet and a strong pickoff move.
Paul Paez, lhp, Southampton (So., Rio Hondo, Calif., CC):
Paez is generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, but that hasn't deterred scouts from expressing interest in the southpaw. Paez began his college career at San Diego before leaving campus last fall and landing at Rio Hondo, where he was drafted in the 18th round despite not pitching this spring to preserve an extra year of eligibility. Paez led the ACBL with seven wins and 82 strikeouts, compiling a 1.65 ERA in 60 regular-season innings and yielding just 35 hits. Paez's success stems from steady command of four pitches. His fastball works between 87-91 mph and touches 92; he locates it to both sides of the plate with arm-side run. His best secondary pitch is a plus changeup with downward life that he sells well. He also throws an 11-to-5 curveball and tight slider, both quality pitches with similar arm speed. His delivery and arm action are clean and repeatable, and he uses his strong legs efficiently when he throws. Paez's projectability is limited by his size, but his feel for pitching is advanced.
K.J. Hockaday, 3b, Youse's Orioles (So., Maryland):
A 14th-round pick by the Orioles in 2011, Hockaday was also the Ripken League's top prospect last year. After starting all 56 games and hitting .305/.367/.404 as a freshman this spring, Hockaday hit .346 this summer. He stands with a slightly open stance and hands held above his shoulders, allowing him to drive the ball with authority to all fields. But he also swings more with his upper half than his full body, reducing his strikeouts (11 in 133 Ripken League at-bats) and power numbers (13 extra-base hits with just two home runs), though his summer home field is the largest in the league. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hockaday broke Mark Teixeira's Maryland state home run record as a senior in high school, leading scouts to believe his power numbers will come as he matures. A below-average runner, Hockaday's future lies at a corner infield spot. His plus arm plays well at third base, where he has a chance to be an average defender. He reacts better to his glove side than to his barehand side, but he charges balls well.
Cody Dickson, lhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Sam Houston State):
Dickson thrived in the Friday starter role for the first half of the spring at Sam Houston, then ran into control struggles and found himself in a midweek role. His walk rate remained too high this summer, when he issued 19 free passes while striking out 25 in 23 innings, but he also held hitters to a .156 average and posted a 3.13 ERA. He actually showed decent control with the exception of one very poor outing, and his stuff is electric. A 6-foot-3, 175-pound southpaw, Dickson sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph with his fastball. He flashes a plus curveball and a promising changeup with good arm speed, but he needs to repeat his secondary stuff more consistently. He sometimes rushes to the plate and spins out of his delivery, but when he stays in sync he can be dominant. He has more upside as he fills out his slender frame.
Sean Manaea, lhp, Hyannis (Jr., Indiana State):
The Cape pitcher of the year, Manaea led the league in innings (52), strikeouts (85) and opponent average (.119) while ranking second in ERA (1.22).
"I saw maybe four balls squared up all year off him," Hyannis manager Chad Gassman said. "It was almost like he put it on autopilot and said, 'I'll see you in the eighth inning.' "
Manaea's fastball velocity continues to rise, and he worked at 94-96 mph most of the summer and hit 98 in a relief appearance. He has late life on his fastball that makes it explode on hitters and elicit swings and misses. There's still room for more projection in his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame.
He's not always consistent with his secondary pitches, but both have the potential to be plus offerings. He tightened his slider and gained more faith in his changeup, which he throws with a splitter grip that gives it tough downward movement. His low three-quarters delivery adds deception without detracting from his ability to fill the strike zone.
Andrew Istler, rhp, Wilson (So., Duke):
Istler went 10-for-40 for the Tobs this summer without an extra-base hit, but thankfully for Istler he also pitches. He was primarily a reliever at Duke in the spring but is slated to replace Marcus Stroman at the front of the Blue Devils rotation next season and made a smooth transition to starting this summer, tossing a pair of complete games. He went 3-0, 0.78 in six starts while posting a 39-12 strikeout-walk ratio and allowing just 19 hits in 46 innings. Istler throws both two- and four-seam fastballs, often working in the upper 80s to get a feel for his command before ramping up to 90-92 mph late in games. His slider has depth, and he showed the ability to throw it for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch. Coach Bryan Hill would like Istler to use his changeup more in the future, as he locates it to both sides of the plate and is just getting used to a starter's routine. "He came to us as a two-way player who was going to relieve, and we had a doubleheader early so we needed him to start," Hill said. "He dominated for eight innings in his first start, and we said, 'Andrew, you're a starter.' And he was lights out."
Nick Gonzalez, lhp, Sanford (Jr., South Florida):
Coming off a rough freshman campaign at South Florida in which he was demoted from a weekend starter role, Gonzalez had a much-improved 2012 spring, going 4-1, 2.63 out of the bullpen with a 40-16 K-BB ratio over 41 innings. He returned to a starting role this summer in the FCSL and shined, striking out 41 over 28 innings. A 30th-round selection in 2010 out of Leto (Fla.) High, Gonzalez has a physical 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and strong arm. As a starter, he shows good command of an 88-90 mph fastball that tops out at 93 with plus movement. His breaking ball is a legitimate strikeout pitch that flashes plus potential at times while his changeup projects to be average. Overall, both lack consistency however. With 20 walks on the summer, control continues to be a concern for Gonzalez.
Rhett Wiseman, of, Brockton (Fr., Vanderbilt):
Ranked No. 136 in the BA 500 heading into the 2012 draft, Wiseman slipped to the 25th round by the Cubs due to signability, and he elected to stick with his commitment to Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Massachusetts native impressed league coaches with his athleticism and ability to cover both gaps. Although there are some holes in Wiseman's lefthanded swing, evidenced by a .224/.313/.344 line this summer, league managers observed that the ball exploded off his bat, and most were convinced that he would hit for average and power as he developed and gained more experience. The 18-year-old also swiped 13 bases and was praised for an advanced approach at the plate and outstanding work ethic.
Ryan Cordell, of, Licking County (Jr., Liberty):
Undrafted out of San Jose's Valley Christian High in 2010, Cordell flashed all five tools while leading the Settlers to a championship this summer. Cordell's most impressive game came on July 28, when he went 5-for-5 while hitting for the cycle, scoring four runs and also swiping four bases. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Cordell batted .336/.371/.632 and played errorless defense at all three outfield positions and first base. He was also 15-for-16 in stolen bases and ran the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds prior to the league's all-star game.
One league manager said Cordell has "tremendous baseball instincts," while another said he has the range to play center field and would routinely take the extra base on balls hit into the gap. Exactly half of the righthanded-hitting Cordell's 42 hits went for extra bases (11 doubles, four triples, six home runs) this summer thanks to plus bat speed. He's coming off a sophomore campaign in which he led Liberty in hitting during Big South Conference play at .403/.471/.565 in 62 at-bats.
Jonathan Youngblood, of, Dodge City (So., Meridian, Miss., CC):
Youngblood just turned 19 in July, yet the teenager has already been drafted twice. In 2011, he was picked in the 30th round by the Braves out of Lafayette (Ky.) High, and this year the Pirates grabbed him in the 15th round out of Meridian CC, where he'll stay for another year. A lean and projectable 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Youngblood looks the part and shows above-average tools, though some of them remain unrefined. He has terrific natural athleticism and grades as a plus runner, swiping 29 bags in 32 attempts this spring. His speed plays well in the outfield, where he takes clean routes, and he also has an average arm. He played left field for the A's in the NBC World Series in deference to older, more proven players, though he shouldn't have trouble adjusting to center at the next level. Youngblood's bat is a work in progress. He hit .277 with 41 runs scored in his first college season but did not fare as well with Dodge City this summer. Slowed by injuries for three weeks, Youngblood hit just .212 with two extra-base hits, primarily in the bottom third of the A's order. He makes consistent contact but doesn't always drive the ball, a product of below-average strength. The righthanded hitter shows more of a gap-to-gap mindset in batting practice but should grow into more power as he matures. Given his size, athleticism and age, Youngblood has a high ceiling with a chance to reach it.
Robert Greco, rhp, Sedalia (Jr., Bellevue, Neb.):
Greco turned in the most dominating single-game performance in the MINK League this season, a 14-strikeout no-hitter that took just 91 pitches to complete. But he was pretty good in all his other MINK starts, too, finishing with a 2.77 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 52 innings. He throws from an over-the-top delivery, and his fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range. His best pitch is his slider, which one coach said was currently a 60 on the 20-80 scale. He also throws a changeup that has the potential to develop into a third quality pitch. To top off the package, Greco has a projectable, lithe 6-foot-4 frame. The biggest key for Greco is improved command, which has allowed him to take a step forward. As a freshman at Bellevue, he walked 28 in 50 innings, leading to mediocre results, but he cut that number to 15 free passes in 45 innings this spring.
New England Collegiate
Alex Haines, lhp, Vermont (Jr., Seton Hill, Pa.):
Haines went 5-2, 0.90 in 40 innings with 54 strikeouts and just six walks, in a year when the league's collective slugging percentage was .433 and collective ERA was 5.23. For Haines, a common refrain became: "You go to Seton Hall, right?" Opposing managers and hitters quickly learned of Division II Seton Hill, located in Greensburg, Pa., where he landed after being lightly recruited out of high school 15 minutes away. Though several managers joked Haines came out of nowhere, he was named the WVIAC's pitcher of the year after going 7-2, 4.24 with 108 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Griffins this spring. A 6-foot-4, 215-pound physical lefty, Haines passes the eye test. His fastball sits at 90-93 mph with arm-side run, and he touched 96 in a one-inning stint starting the all-star game, in which he threw 12 straight fastballs in an empty frame. Haines' offspeed stuff is improving, and as one manager said, "He dominated the league by throwing fastballs, and fastballs only," though his changeup improved dramatically throughout the summer. His curveball is a work in progress. He worked to introduce a cutter late in the summer. Haines had Tommy John surgery as a junior in high school, and though his fundamental delivery could be smoothed out, his arm action is clean. He has continued adding strength, and he long-tosses from pole-to-pole before starts. One scout projected Haines would be a top-five-rounds pick in next year's draft.
New York Collegiate
Eric Eck, rhp, Hornell (Jr., Wofford):
After racking up seven saves and striking out 60 batters in 44 innings while coming out of the bullpen for Wofford, Eck continued to miss bats this summer. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 185 pounds, Eck's projectable frame, smooth delivery, and loose arm action tantalized scouts this summer. A number of scouts also praised Eck's mound presence, poise, and makeup. Eck's fastball sat at 90-91 mph and topped out at 93 during the summer, but he could end up throwing even harder as he continues to fill out. Eck will have to refine his feel for his breaking ball and changeup, as most coaches felt his secondary offerings remain works in progress. Nevertheless, Eck managed to tally 43 strikeouts in 30 innings in the NCYBL, and he joined the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League after Hornell was eliminated from the playoffs.
Derek Fisher, of, Madison (So., Virginia):
Fisher was a high-profile prospect out of high school, but a bit of a down senior year combined with a strong commitment to Virginia caused him to slip to the Rangers in the sixth round and wind up on campus. Fisher hit well as a freshman, leading the Cavaliers in home runs, and power is his best tool. He has natural loft in his lefthanded swing and the ball really jumps off his bat. He's best when he stays with a gap-to-gap approach and focuses on driving the ball back up the middle. He can fly open and overswing sometimes in hitter's counts, but he has easy power from the left-center gap to the right-field foul pole. Defensively, Fisher is limited to a corner outfield spot. He's a solid-average runner but is a little slow to get going, both out of the batter's box and in the field. He runs the bases well but will never be a basestealing threat. Fisher will also need to work on not getting too up or down mentally over the course of a long season. That should come with maturity, as Fisher just turned 19 in August.
Perfect Game Collegiate
Chandler Shepherd, rhp, Amsterdam (So., Kentucky):
A five-sport varsity letterman at Lawrence County High, Shepherd was the top high school prospect in the state of Kentucky entering the 2011 draft. As a sophomore in 2009, the righthander tossed a state-record 46 consecutive scoreless innings, but had Tommy John surgery and missed his entire junior year. The White Sox took a flier on him in the 41st round in 2011, but Shepherd honored his school commitment and split time as a midweek starter and long reliever for the nationally ranked Wildcats. He went 3-1, 3.83 in 56 innings and burst onto the scene after shutting out No. 9 Arkansas and top-ranked Louisiana State in a pair of three-plus-inning relief outings. Shepherd has further impressed this summer—leading the league in wins (seven), ERA (1.31) and opponents' batting average (.154) while striking out 50 and walking 12 in 55 innings for the league champs. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Shepherd has all the ingredients scouts look for in a pitcher—quality stuff, a smooth delivery, and projection. Shepherd commands a 91-93 mph fastball with running life and also mixes in an above-average breaking ball, though his changeup is a work in progress.
Elliot Caldwell, of, Butler (So., Spartanburg, S.C., Methodist JC):
After playing sparingly as a freshman for Winthrop and hitting just .217/.294/.239 in 46 at-bats, Caldwell turned the Prospect League into his personal playground this summer, impressing more than his fair share of the league's coaches along the way. Caldwell—who will play at Spartanburg Methodist JC next season—used his compact, inside-out swing and good gap power to torch Prospect League pitching to the tune of a .388/.450/.592 line with seven home runs and 47 RBIs. A rock-solid 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Caldwell has present strength and physicality with the frame to add more muscle down the road. Coaches were impressed with his ability to control the bat and drive the ball to all fields. He still had a tendency to get caught swinging at pitches he shouldn't, but he should be able to refine his approach as he gets more opportunities to play. Caldwell has above-average speed and excellent instincts on the basepaths, helping him steal 27 bases this summer, and his defensive versatility allowed the Butler coaching staff to play him in the infield and the outfield. But he projects best at a corner outfield spot, where his above-average arm and outfield instincts should allow him to develop into a plus defender. And coaches raved about his makeup and work ethic.
Jason Jester, rhp, East Texas (Jr., Texas A&M):
Voted as the TCL's top closer a year ago, Jester had an utterly dominant summer in his return to East Texas. In 31 innings, Jester posted a 0.58 ERA, a 42-3 K-BB ratio and allowed just 13 hits. He racked up 19 saves, shattering the previous league record of 12. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound righty has a strong, well-developed lower half, fluid mechanics and an electric arm. Jester sits 92-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and can touch 97. His late-breaking 79-82 mph curveball with substantial depth was unanimously rated as the league's best breaking ball by coaches. For years his changeup was a distant third pitch, but the high-70s offering has developed into a true swing-and-miss weapon against lefties. Coaches praise his seemingly inexhaustible work ethic, feel for pitching and command. After two seasons as a starter at Tyler (Texas) JC, Jester transferred to Texas A&M to become a late-inning reliever, but was declared academically ineligible after fall ball and he went undrafted as a junior. The Aggies expect him to anchor their bullpen this spring, and he could be a high draft as a 22-year-old next spring.
Chad Kuhl, rhp, New Market, (Jr., Delaware):
Kuhl showed average to above-average velocity this summer with his four-seam fastball, working in the 90-93 range. His fastball is sometimes flat and straight, and he'll need to improve that pitch to enhance his draft potential next June. Kuhl employs a short, quick delivery and a three-quarters slot. His second pitch is a 79-82 curve with late 11-to-5 break. He also shows an 82-84 changeup with below-average depth. Kuhl's control for New Market was greatly improved over his spring season for Delaware, when he went 5-5, 4.42 with 64 strikeouts and 36 walks in 77 innings. In 41 Valley innings, he went 4-0, 1.11 with 39 strikeouts and 17 walks, holding hitters to a .167 average.
Taylor Sparks, 3b/of, Wenatchee (So., UC Irvine):
In high school and as a freshman at UC Irvine, Sparks' performance lagged behind his impressive tools, but he may have narrowed the gap this summer after hitting .388/.448/.709 over 134 at-bats, ranking second in the league in batting average and first in home runs with nine. Sparks has a brawny, 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and power is his best tool. He won the league's home run derby at the all-star game and hit a few balls nearly 450 feet. He has a compact swing but his brute strength allows him to occasionally mis-hit balls and still muscle them through the infield for hits.
"Let's just say we keep the married guys off the infield when he's taking BP," Wenatchee head coach Ed Knaggs said. "He hits balls and you just laugh because you can tell right away it's gone. The ball just sounds different coming off his bat."
Sparks does still struggle with breaking balls and strikes out about once per game. His defense is passable and he has a strong arm, but spent the summer shuffling between third and left field. Sparks' father Don was a fifth-round pick by the Yankees in 1988 out of Loyola Marymount and spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, mostly in Triple-A.